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The Scourge of the Patent Troll

Controversial patent claims have been all over the news lately. There is even one so called “patent troll” targeting users of scan-to-email on multi-functional equipment. This shady practice could potentially affect Halsey & Griffith customers, so we want to make sure you are aware of the issue and know what your options are.

Ars Technica and NBC Connecticut both have great coverage of this story, but the basics are as follows: What is now a group of several LLC’s is claiming a patent to the concept of scanning a document on your office scanner or MFP, and sending it via e-mail as a PDF file – a process many businesses perform daily. These companies have all been sending the same exact chain letter to small businesses across the country demanding a licensing fee of $1,000 per user for using this technology, and threatening litigation if the businesses don’t pay.

Over the past eight months, these patent trolls have targeted small businesses in Connecticut, Virginia, Georgia, New Hampshire and Minnesota demanding royalties for technology they did not invent.

The good news is that two of the companies who actually manufacture the machines you use to perform this function everyday – Ricoh and Xerox – have now taken joint action against the owner of these mysterious LLCs, issuing a statement that reads:

“The ’426 patent has become the subject of an aggressive patent licensing campaign by various affiliates of MPHJ Technology Investments who are targeting users of the products of virtually every manufacturer of multi-function imaging equipment, including Ricoh and Xerox. …Today’s filing demonstrates both Ricoh and Xerox’s strong commitment to their customers and authorized dealer networks. If successful, our action will both nullify the ’426 patent and help disable MPHJ’s licensing campaign against our customers. We are confident this is the right action to take to support our customers.”

While Ricoh works to stop these patent trolls in their tracks, what can your business do if targeted? Robert Goldberg, an attorney for the Business Technology Association recommends the following:

  • Respond to the letter and ask them to identify the equipment they believe is part of the process that’s infringing.
  • Deny infringement.
  • Deny the validity of the patents.
  • Write back and say your business will vigorously oppose any litigation that’s brough to enforce the patents.
  • Hire your own local counsel.

For more options on what your business can do if targeted by a patent troll, check out this pamphlet from the Business Technology Association.